ISSUES AND ANSWERS ON STATE SPENDING: Imperative to identify programs that offer ‘biggest bang for buck’

How much should the state be spending?

That could be answered in many different ways. I could say that we should be spending no more than 98 percent of the revenue that we bring in (even in these difficult budget years, we haven’t overspent more than the 98 percent). I could say that we should spend enough to cover our basic obligations to our citizens, but that’s where opinions differ as to what our basic obligations are.

Most everyone can agree on police, the judicial system and education, but then opinions start to vary. Should we spend money so nobody has to sleep on the sidewalk at night? Should we spend money so that nobody goes hungry? Where do you draw the line?

What can realistically be done to cut spending?

Rep. Melanie George Smith

We have spent years cutting, cutting, and doing more cutting. It’s actually pretty painful right now making cuts. There isn’t any low-hanging fruit, so to speak. We trimmed the fat, the excesses, and what we have left are people who provide services. Are we willing to reduce the level of service the government provides to its citizens? Are we willing to wait in longer lines at DMV? Are we willing to have larger class sizes in school?

At this point, I believe we need to continue Gov. Carney’s, and Gov. Markell’s before him commitment to identifying what programs and services are providing the biggest bang for our taxpayer’s dollar. It’s no longer sufficient that a state program has a great mission. It has to have great results too.

How can we lower Medicaid costs?

Director Steve Groff set in place a few years ago leading mechanisms to reduce duplicative services, waste, fraud and crime within Medicaid, which amounts to millions of dollars. I believe he has shown tremendous leadership in continually assessing and re-assessing what is working and what is not. I will continue to support his efforts. I also think we can and should look at more preventative measures, which would save millions.

For example, Christiana and Nemours I believe are working together with a computer system called Carelink, that helps identify people who need medical help, and a social worker then reaches out to them to say, for example, “I noticed you haven’t come in for your diabetes check. Can I help get you there.” Prevention is win-win for everyone. We prevent people from getting sick or sicker, and we save money while doing so.

Should Delaware create a “budget-smoothing” fund?

In an ideal world, that sounds like a great idea. The challenge of implementing a budget-smoothing fund now is that you have nearly a decade of pent-up demand for state dollars that have not been there. We have been cutting and cutting so much and saying no to so many needs, that there are true needs that exist in Delaware that as soon as we have more revenue, we must fund these.

The idea of a budget-smoothing fund would make more sense if we were in a series of prolonged growth, where we legitimately had more money than our true needs, and could set some of it aside without compromising the well-being of our citizens.

Should the state make efforts to increase revenue? If so, how?

A rising tide lifts all boats. The governor is working hard to increase economic development, which raises our revenue, and I am very supportive of his new and innovative efforts.

Rep. Melanie George Smith, a Bear Democrat who has served as the co-chair of the powerful Joint Finance Committee for the past five years.

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